Warren County High School graduate Catherine Hill plans to tour the world one classroom at a time.
She returned to America last week after teaching English for eight months in Thailand.
“It was rewarding and it was challenging,” said Hill, the daughter of David and Theresa Hill. “I was in a small fishing village and not many people spoke English at all. It was like I was a mini celebrity because everywhere I went people stared at me. They don’t see many white people at all.”
Hill taught second-graders at an elementary school that went up to sixth grade. Her classroom had 31 students. She said the school schedule in Thailand is extremely rigid with a heavy emphasis on learning and not much recreation time. Students are in school from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week.
“They drown their kids in studying,” said Hill, 24. “I was teaching second-graders so you know they can be rambunctious and rowdy, but they don’t have an outlet to get rid of their energy. They need more breaks, but they only get PE once a week. I felt so bad for them because it’s like they don’t get to have any fun. Thailand spends a lot of money on education and a lot of time on education, but most of the time it doesn’t pay off. They get very bad results.”
Hill taught in the town of Mahachai, which relies on its fishing and factories to provide work. She said it wasn’t a pretty tourist town or a major travel destination such as Bangkok, which has over 14 million people in its greater metro area.
Hill said most people have a misconception about Thailand as a country where crime and human trafficking are rampant. She said the movie “Taken” helped promote this perception. However, she said that wasn’t her experience at all.
“If anything, the Thai people are shy. They are scared of foreigners,” said Hill. “They are so timid, the ones who do know English are reluctant to speak it because they don’t want to make a big mistake. That made it difficult for me because their language is so incredibly complicated. I was told not to try to communicate in Thai.”
While Hill had to pay for her travel to Thailand, she was paid for her work as an English teacher. She also taught math, science and health. She rented a small apartment close to the school and said a large part of her day consisted of staying indoors.
“They have three seasons in Thailand – hot, very hot, and rainy,” said Hill. “I arrived at the start of their very hot season. It’s different than any kind of heat we have here. When they say it’s so hot you can’t go outdoors, they mean it. It is literally that hot.”
Hill enjoyed her oriental adventure and plans to continue teaching in different countries. She plans to spend the holidays here in Warren County with her family before traveling to South Korea to hold a similar teaching position beginning in February.
“It’s a great way to learn about different cultures and get paid while doing it,” said Hill. “I figure it’s something I can do while I’m still young and it’s not a financial strain.”
Hill, a Belmont graduate, said many people have asked her about how they can teach in other countries under a similar program. She said obtaining certification to teach international courses is amazingly simple. She thought her first job would be teaching in Saudi Arabia, but when that fell through she was able to land a job in Thailand without much trouble.
She said two websites to visit to get started are www.eslcafe.com and www.vialingua.com.
Hill returned to Warren County last Wednesday. Her return trip consisted of flying from Thailand to Hong Kong, then flying from Hong Kong to Los Angeles. She then flew from L.A. to Tennessee.